PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — In their history with Tom Brady at quarterback, the Patriots are astoundingly successful in the game following their bye week with a 13-4 record since the 2000 season. The NFC’s 5-4 Philadelphia Eagles were next-in-line to join that list.
To do so, the Patriots had to win in close fashion in Philadelphia against the Eagles, the team that defeated the Patriots in Super Bowl LII. Names have changed, especially at quarterback. Carson Wentz was injured during Philadelphia’s Super Bowl season, but he is now in charge of one of the potential playoff teams in the NFC.
The Patriots suffered their first loss of the season on the road in Baltimore Nov. 3, an eye-opening defeat that expressed the flaws of the offensive line with Isaiah Wynn still recovering from injury, and journeyman left tackle Marshall Newhouse in at left tackle.
The Baltimore loss was also the first time in the season that a team successfully ran the ball against New England’s talented defense. While this week’s quarterback in Carson Wentz was not a threat to run in the same breath as Lamar Jackson, Wentz is not afraid to tuck-and-run when plays break.
The Eagles offensive line is and was a challenge for New England’s pass rush. Philadelphia formed lengthy offensive drives during the first half with draw-play runs to running backs Miles Sanders and Boston Scott.
This was also a standout day for Eagles tight end Zack Ertz, who was matched up with New England’s linebackers and cornerbacks all game, but they were unable to stop him. Ertz finished the game with nine catches for 94 yards.
The Eagles’ persistent run-pass option offense led to an early 10-0 lead in the second quarter as Carson Wentz found tight end Dallas Goedart for a five-yard touchdown pass. New England’s pass rush struggled to capitalize off their pressure as Wentz would get rid of the ball just before the pocket collapsed.
New England’s offense was mostly stagnant in the first half, gaining yards but settling for three Nick Folk field goals. Tom Brady struggled to find open receivers while enduring a steady Eagles pass rush, so Josh McDaniels had the 42 year-old quarterback roll out of the pocket to gain enough time to throw, and he was not used to this adjustment. When Brady did find his receivers, they were unable to come down with the ball. Julian Edelman received ten targets in the game but only caught five of them for 53 yards.
New England’s adaptation in the second half was arguably the difference in the game. The Patriots defense shut Philadelphia’s offense out in the second half with suppression of the run, and finally executing on their pass rush opportunities. The Patriots secondary also held Wentz in check, forcing him to make deep throws into tight windows, and deceiving Philadelphia head coach Doug Pederson into expecting full-on blitzes on third down. Wentz was unable to convert on key plays due to tight pass coverage by the Patriots, allowing the Patriots to survive without an exceptional game from the offense.
Trick plays involving Julian Edelman are almost always effective, and this week was another example. Tom Brady received a direct snap and threw a screen pass to Julian Edelman, who found Phillip Dorsett sprinting to the end zone for the go-ahead 15-yard touchdown in the third quarter. The Patriots finally pulled ahead 17-10 with a successful two-point conversion.
The Patriots offense chewed clock in the fourth quarter and relied on the success of the defense in the final moments. With a minute remaining and a 4th-and-10 deep in New England territory, Wentz and the Eagles were forced to make one final play to tie the game at 17-17. New England sent a healthy blitz of five men over to Wentz, and he released a deep pass to receiver Nelson Agholor before taking a hit.
Agholor created enough separation in the back of the end zone to make a simple catch, but the pass fell through his hands to end Philadelphia’s drive and seal the game for New England, 17-10 final.
The Patriots improved to 9-1 on the season, remaining the best record in the AFC behind the 8-2 Baltimore Ravens. New England returns home to Foxboro to play the Dallas Cowboys on Nov. 24 at 4:25 p.m.
Brian Garland is the Sports Editor of The Comment.